Last year at the St. Baldrick’s Foundation event at Skateland in Channahon, Brody Roberts of Channahon was the top earner as he raised over $3,000 for childhood cancer research. Just a few months later, in November 2017, Roberts was diagnosed with leukemia and currently receives treatment in Memphis at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
This year one of Roberts’ best friends, Andrew Straley, worked hard to be the top earner of the Channahon event to show support for his friend, who now can benefit from the money people have raised to research cancer in children.
“This is my son’s best friend, so this really hits home this year,” said Matt Straley, event organizer and father of Andrew. “Brody started losing his hair in December and my son said he wanted to shave his now, so we shaved him bald. He’s been growing it for St. Baldrick’s and we want Brody to look around and see a bunch of people who support him. This event provides financial and emotional support.”
Sixty men, women, boys and girls signed up to shave their heads at the event on Saturday. According to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, since its inception in 2005, the organization has donated $234 million in research grant funds. The first St. Baldrick’s event took place in 2000 at a St. Patrick’s Day party held at Jim Brady’s Pub in Manhattan, where 19 people shaved their heads and raised $104,000 which was donated to fund research of the Children’s Oncology Group.
In 2005, St. Baldrick’s became its own independent foundation and broke a fundraiser record in 2014 with $27.2 million raised that year alone, according to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
Matt Straley, along with his wife, Julie, headed up the event this year for the first time and Matt said his goal was to raise $10,000 between the auction items, head shaves and donations, and came out above $15,000.
Matt said the money goes to the national organization which will then be disbursed to grants via committee recommendation. He said over 50 grants locally have currently received funds from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation.
When the doors opened to Skateland at 6:30 p.m., guests checked in and then were welcomed with 75 raffle baskets and multiple silent auction items. Food, drinks and snacks kept everyone fed and music kept the children on the dance floor.
The Rev. Father Peter Jarosz of St. Ann Catholic Church in Channahon opened the event in prayer and awards were given to the top earners and those who have volunteered to shave their head most often.
Knight of the Bald Table award went to Brian Heusing of Team XPO because he had shaved his head over seven times and Knight Commander award went to Jamie Regan of Team XPO who had shaved his head 12 years.
“This is a tremendous charity for kids’ cancer research. It’s the right thing to do; no kids should have to go through cancer. Getting my head shaved is nothing compared to what they have to go through,” Regan said.
The top earners were Andrew Straley in first place with $1,945 in donations; second, Loretta Cattani of the Channahon Police Department team with $1,720; and third place was Annabelle Zemaitis with $1,220.
After awards, dancers of all ages from Keigher Academy of Dance in Minooka wowed the crowd with multiple routines and then the heads began to get shaved.
Angie Williams, manager of GreatClips in Joliet on Essington brought her stylists out to shave all of the heads. Hair long enough to donate was bagged for Wigs for Kids which makes wigs for children at no cost.
Thomas Yancey was among the first to get his hair cut, and like Andrew Staley, was there to support his friend Brody.
“He’s been gone from school and he’s one of my friends. I’m raising money not just for him, but for other kids. I am showing him he’s not the only one,” Yancey said when asked why he wanted to shave his head.
His mother, Kristen Yancey, said he and Brody were considered the comedy duo last year at school because Thomas would tell her that he and Brody cracked people up at school. She said the family was near and dear to their hearts.
Three friends, Katie Fink, Annabelle Zemaitis and Bethany Raichart, all cut their below the shoulder length hair together at the event. As the scissors cut off the length of the hair the girls stuffed it into their donation bags and giggled. As the clippers buzzed over their heads, facial expressions changed from happy to shocked as none of them every had hair this short.
“I wanted to try something new, and kept saying, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh.’ I’ve had short hair, but not this short,” Zemaitis said.
Raichart followed family tradition as her father and brothers shaved their heads as well as her older sister.
“It felt nice, but I was really scared. I said ‘I can’t believe I’m doing this,’ but I’m happy I did it,” Raichart said.
For information on the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, visit stbaldricks.org.